I’ve been neglecting posts on iCarly and Victorious lately. Part of that has been a matter of time management: other commitments have kept me from having the energy and time to sit down and write about the episodes. But another part has been the lack of anything really worth talking about in the most recent episodes of iCarly (sans the series finale, and I don’t know when I’ll get around to committing some thoughts on that) and particularly last week’s Victorious, which featured atrocious gender politics and a solid premise whose promise gets wasted by about halfway through the episode. All in all, “Cell Block” was not the show’s best moment. “Tori Fixes Beck And Jade,” on the other hand, was a perfect example of the show at its finest.
The most striking part about the episode is how it first presents Jade’s trademark characteristics — her ability to strike fear into the hearts of men, her tear-down of traditional dating rituals such as the cliched “you look nice today” line — as things to be alternately feared or laughed at. These characteristics are played up in this episode particularly because Beck gets hit on by a cute girl at the top, only to shoot her down because he has to count a big jar of coins. (That’s now on my list of “Weirdest Reasons to Reject a Date,” by the way.) Tori informs us (or if you’re a longtime viewer, reminds us) that by this point Beck and Jade have been broken up for months and that both of them have stalled a bit in the love department. Tori’s role in the episode is to play matchmaker, first to Jade so that she doesn’t have to worry about who Beck dates, and then to Beck with the cute girl, Meredith, for whom Jade harbors a long-term feelings of jealousy. Things sort of resolve themselves when Jade insists once more that she doesn’t care who Beck dates. But at the Full Moon Jam (another delightful excuse by Hollywood Arts to put on a concert and sell records, although I dig the title), Beck discovers that Meredith is, well, boring.
In fact, Meredith as a character is revelatory because through her, Victorious succesfully turns its sympathies towards Jade in an episode that mostly follows Tori, Andre, and Beck. Meredith is so submissive to Beck that her personality is virtually non-existent. That does make her an object of the plot, and not a character in her own right, but it’s also how the show takes Jade’s trademarke characteristics, previously used for the purposes of horror and comedy, and turns them into positive celebrations of Jade as a person. Conflict, the show argues, is the heart of all things good and bad in this world. When Tori asks why Beck isn’t happy with Meredith, he replies, “Easy’s boring.” This echoes a conversation between Veronica and Logan at the alterna-prom near the end of season two of Veronica Mars:
Veronica: Come on. Ruined lives, bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard?
Logan: No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.
Conflict is inherent to love, and it’s what makes Jade rise above the crowd and into the spotlight. The men placed before her in hopes of dating her are scared off by how opinionated she is, and how she can turn a conversation into an argument on a dime, but for Beck, that’s ideal. This glorification of Jade’s opinionated voice coalesces in the song she sings, “You Don’t Know Me,” which says, “You push me back, I’ll push you back/Harder, harder/You scream at me, I’ll scream at you/Louder, louder.”
And so Beck and Jade kiss and make up, after Gillies rocks a mighty fine song on stage, and Andre’s grandma yells a butterfly out of Cat’s ear (in a slight but funny subplot that mostly involves Ariana Grande screaming and slapping her ear a lot), and Sinjin sticks his head into a butterfly motel. The continuity nods (Tori first asks Andre to ask Jade out, because he had a crush on her, recalling the events of “Jade Gets Crushed”), the musical product as emotional catharsis, the weirdness — these are the things that make Victorious so much fun to watch.